Southeast Asia’s top diplomat has warned that the South China Sea disputes risk becoming “Asia’s Palestine”, deteriorating into a violent conflict that draws sharp dividing lines between nations and destabilises the whole region.
U.S. Energy Information Agency The South China Sea encompasses a portion of the Pacific Ocean stretching roughly from Singapore and the Strait of Malacca in the southwest, to the Strait of Taiwan (between Taiwan and China) in the northeast. The area includes more than 200 small islands, rocks, and reefs, with the majority located in the Paracel and Spratly Island chains. Many of these islands are partially submerged islets, rocks, and reefs unsuitable for habitation and are little more than shipping hazards, with the total land area of the Spratly Islands encompassing less than 3 square miles. The islands are important for strategic and political reasons, however, as claims of ownership are used to bolster claims to the surrounding sea and its resources. The Gulf of Thailand borders the South China Sea, and though technically not part of it, disputes surround ownership of the Gulf and its resources as well.
Source: CIA Maps and Publications for the Public (from above U.S. EIA Link)